The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 10, 2016

February 10, 1899

Archibald Lampman (November 17, 1861 to February 10, 1899) was a Canadian writer.
Our sketch below quotes either the Encyclopedia Britannica or a source on Canadian biography. 

The Morpeth
[his birth place] that Lampman knew was a small town set in the rolling farm country of what is now western Ontario, not far from the shores of Lake Erie. The little red church just east of the town, on the Talbot Road, was his father’s charge. Lampman was of loyalist stock on both sides of the family. The European roots were German on his father’s side and Dutch on his mother’s, but in the more immediate line of descent both of the poet’s grandmothers were Scottish.

Peter Lampman, the poet’s grandfather, belonged to the third generation of German immigrants who had settled in New Jersey in 1750. After the American revolution the family moved to Upper Canada and established a fruit farm...

[The adult poet] lived in Ottawa, employed in the post office department of the Canadian civil service, from 1883 until his death. .....Lampman was repelled by the mechanization of urban life and escaped to the countryside whenever possible. After being influenced by the craftsmanship and perfection of form of Classical poetry and by the lyrical verse of such English poets as William Wordsworth,.... he wrote nature poems celebrating the beauties of Ottawa and its environs and the Gatineau countryside of Quebec. Some of Lampman’s later poems and essays reflect his socialist beliefs and criticize social injustice and organized religion. ...

In Ottawa on 3 Sept. 1887 Lampman married Maud Emma Playter, 20 years old, daughter of Dr Edward Playter, formerly of Toronto. They had a daughter, Natalie Charlotte, born in 1892. Arnold Gesner, born May 1894, was the first boy, but he died in August. A third child, Archibald Otto, was born in 1898. Finances were strained, and the newlyweds lived for a time with the Playters.

...[Later, when personal turmoil, 
due to publishing difficulties, an extramarital affair and the suffocation of an urban milieu, led to personal turmoil, the] effect on Lampman was to ...push the world, which he had always held at arm’s length, still farther away. His retreat was to nature and the poetry nature engendered. Mercifully, in the year before he died he was tranquil. He was working on one of the finest of his nature poems, “Winter uplands,” in his last days.
....
Lampman’s world-view was simple. Like many of his fellows he had lost his faith in Christian dogma and institutionalized religion; the shadow of the Cross does not lie upon his poetry. What is left is a burning idealism, a secular but lofty humanism which looks less to the glory of God than to the glory of man’s soul as it journeys towards peace and justice and freedom in a transcendent relation with nature... 

[As a boy Archibald Lampman had gotten rheumatic fever] 
Complications left him lame for four years; and his weakened heart was to be instrumental in his early death...His enduring love was Greek and the Greek masters. He would be translating Homer in the weeks before his death.


The following poem, which we found in The Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900), titled "Falling Asleep"goes this way:

Slowly my thoughts lost hold on consciousness
Like waves that urge but cannot reach the shore:
Once and again I wakened and once more
The wind sighed in, and with a lingering stress
Brushed the loose blinds. Out of some far recess
There came the stealthy creaking of a door
The mice ran scuffling underneath the floor;
And then when all the house stood motionless,
Something dropped sharply overhead; a deep
Dead silence followed; only half aware,
I groped and strove to waken and fell flat;
A moment after, step by step, a cat
Came plumping softly down the attic stair;
And then I turned and then I fell asleep.

These lines are graceful and show an introspective subtlety.  "Falling Asleep" speaks still today  of a believable yesterday. 


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